Hispanic Birth Rate Soars in Southeast

AP, Aug. 9, 2006

Hispanic births are skyrocketing in the Southeast, where an increase of at least 40 percent was recorded in five states between 2000 and 2003, according to a new government report.

Among the states with the largest increases were Kentucky (80 percent), South Carolina (62 percent), Alabama (53 percent), Tennessee (53 percent) and Arkansas (40 percent), the report found.

The report, from the National Center for Health Statistics, is called the first state-by-state breakdown of birth and fertility rates in the U.S. Hispanic population.

U.S. births for non-Hispanic whites decreased 10 percent between 1990 and 2000, and 2 percent between 2000 and 2003, the report showed. Births for blacks declined 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

In contrast, births for Hispanic women jumped 37 percent between 1990 and 2000, and another 12 percent between 2000 and 2003.

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Mexican-Americans had the highest birth rates overall, followed by Puerto Ricans and Cuban-Americans. Mexican-Americans gave birth in their teens and early 20s at higher rates, while for Cuban-Americans, the highest birth rate was for women in their late 20s.

And while California and Texas continue to have the largest Mexican populations, North Carolina and Georgia had the highest fertility rates for Mexican mothers.

In North Carolina, there were 181 births per 1,000 Mexican women ages 15 to 44 in 2000. In Georgia, the fertility rate was 180 per 1,000 Mexican women.

In contrast, the U.S. fertility rate for Mexican-American women was 105 per 1,000. California’s was 112, and Texas’ was 124.

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WakeMed—a 515-bed hospital in Raleigh, N.C.—saw Hispanic births rise from 463 in 1997 to 1,819 in 2005.

Hispanics account for about 36 percent of the births at the hospital. Most years, more than 90 percent are Mexican, said Dr. Juan Granados, who trains obstetrics residents at the hospital.

Only about 3 percent of the families have health insurance, he said. Fortunately, the state provides a special Medicaid payment to help offset such unreimbursed care, he added.

“So the hospitals don’t go into bankruptcy,” said Granados, a University of North Carolina professor of obstetrics and gynecology and maternal and fetal medicine.

In the past, most Hispanic mothers were part of migrant farm worker families who came to the Raleigh area for part of the year and then moved on. But lately, many Mexican families seem to be staying year-round, with men taking jobs in construction and landscaping, Granados said.

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